Week 5 Preview: #4 Michigan Wolverines vs. #8 Wisconsin Badgers
The first ranked opponent for Michigan this season is the Wisconsin Badgers. Last week Michigan destroyed its first Big Ten opponent of the year in Penn State. This next challenge will be different. Wisconsin has two big wins over LSU and Michigan State. They have played in two big games so far this year, Michigan has yet to do that.
This won’t be an easy win for the Wolverines. Wisconsin has a tough defense and an explosive offense that has new life with a new quarterback. Expect a close game that will come down to the wire. While Louisville vs Clemson will get majority of the media attention, this game is one to watch.
What to Expect Against Wisconsin
Wilton Speight will have to be careful. Wisconsin has six interceptions and 21 pass deflections so far this season, so a costly pass could end up being intercepted. Speight does only have one interception this season, but he should have more as the opposing defenses couldn’t hang on to the ball. Michigan can’t give Wisconsin more chances to score if they want to stay in this game
The offensive line will be tested the most. Wisconsin has 11 sacks, and 21 tackles for loss this year. The offensive line will need to push the defensive line back and they can’t let the linebackers take over. T.J. Watt, brother of J.J. Watt, has had a fantastic start to the year, if he can help stop the run it could be a long day for the Wolverines.
This defense that Wisconsin has will give the Michigan offense a real test on the ground and in the air. Michigan can’t afford to fumble or throw interceptions as they could easily cost them the win.
Flipping sides, Michigan might have defensive tackle Bryan Mone back. He has been out since week one and bringing back another defensive tackle will be huge for the Wolverines, meaning there can be even more players rotating in and out and Michigan has the power and depth to do that. Them and the linebackers are definitely going to be needed to stop the Badgers rushing attack. Corey Clement has 65 carries for 251 yards and five touchdowns on the year. They also have another back in Dare Ogunbowale who has 42 carries for 182 yards and only one touchdown.
Wisconsin has a two back offense and that is hard to stop at times. Jabrill Peppers will need to be aware of who is in and how to attack them. Taco Charlton and Chris Wormley will have to be able to collapse and force the rusher to go up the middle and get sucked up by the line or linebackers.
Wisconsin’s passing game made a change though last week. Freshman quarterback Alex Hornibrook got the start and while doing well, wasn’t perfect. He threw for 378 yards and three touchdowns, but threw two interceptions. That is where Michigan will need to attack. Jourdan Lewis is back and while he was quiet last week, expect him to step up and make some plays this week. Michigan did lose Jeremy Clark for the year with a torn ACL, so someone else will need to step up.
Coverage is going to need to be tight by everyone. Wisconsin has three really good receivers who have almost split catches evenly. They have Jazz Peavy with 16 catches for 274 yards and two touchdowns, Robert Wheelwright with 15 catches for 228 yards and Troy Fumagalli who has 14 catches for 169 yards. Michigan will have a tough time stopping that as if you want to double cover one, someone else will be open.
Overall this game will be close and a good test for Michigan. All year people have said “who has Michigan beat?” and this can be a game to point out and say who. If Michigan can win this game and Louisville beats Clemson, Michigan could jump to the number 3 spot next week. Either way, Michigan will finish its five game homestand with a big win over Wisconsin as they look towards Rutgers in week six.
Prediction: #4 Michigan 28 – #8 Wisconsin 21